Did you know that March 4 is National Grammar Day? I looked it up and got this little bit of history:
“The day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, the founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. The day’s motto is: ‘It’s not only a date, it’s an imperative: March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!'”
My goodness. That’s quite the motto. And though it does nothing to help alleviate the stereotype of grammar correctors being strict and uptight, I’m an editor, so I’m going to run with it. I figure, this day gives me an opportunity to share a brief list of some common grammar mistakes. Some relate to word confusion, which auto-correct might not catch, so it’s good to be vigilant.
1. Could care less vs. couldn’t care less
If you say, “I could care less,” this means you actually do care, because you could lessen your amount of caring. If you’re trying to indicate that you don’t care at all, then you should say, “I couldn’t care less.”
Example: I couldn’t care less about being stereotyped.
2. Apostrophe confusion
The possessive use of the apostrophe can be confusing. The first rule to remember is that you do not use an apostrophe for possessive pronouns such as his, hers, your, yours, our, ours, their, theirs, my, mine, or its.
That mistake happens most with the word “its.”
This is correct: The machine is missing some of its parts.
You will only use an apostrophe for the contraction of “it is.”
Example: It’s nice to meet you.
Singular possessive nouns use an apostrophe with an “s” after it.
Example: Was that John’s car?
This is also the case when the singular noun ends with an “s.”
Example: No, that was Dennis’s car.
For plural possessive nouns, you only use the apostrophe.
Example: All of my friends’ cars are parked in the lot.
3. Me vs. I
“I” is used when you’re the subject of a verb; the doer.
Example: I am going for a hike today.
“Me” is used when you’re the object of a verb; the receiver.
Example: Did you text me?
That is pretty straight-forward, but if you get confused about which is the right pronoun to use when including yourself with another person, a good rule of thumb is to take the other person out of the sentence and see if it still makes sense. If you say, “these tickets are for Sean and I,” is that correct or incorrect? (If you take Sean out, would you say, “This ticket is for I”?)
The correct way to say it: These tickets are for Sean and me.
4. Irregardless vs. regardless
Only use “regardless.” The word “regardless” means “with no regard for.” The prefix “ir” means “not,” so by combining the two, you’re just adding a negative to an existing negative, which is redundant.
Example: We’re going to the beach, regardless of the rain.
5. Would of vs. would have or would’ve
Just remember that “would of” is never correct. It just sounds like “would’ve,” which is correct and a contraction of “would have.”
Example: I would’ve called you, but I was in a meeting.
Note: this also applies to “could’ve,” “should’ve,” and “might’ve.”
6. Affect vs. effect
“Affect” is a verb.
Example: That loud sound is affecting my concentration.
“Effect” is a noun.
Example: Your donation had a profound effect.
7. Alot vs. a lot vs. allot
Always include that space in “a lot” when you’re referencing a great amount of something. (Note: in this case, auto-correct might do its job since “alot” without a space is not a word.)
Example: I like you a lot.
“Allot” is a verb that means to apportion or to set aside.
Example: I will allot $20.00 for gas.
8. Lose vs. loose
With one “o,” it references loss.
Example: I will lose a lot of money. (See how I incorporated the last item?)
With two “o’s,” it references relaxed tension.
Example: That knot is very loose.
9. Compliment vs. complement
Spelled with an “i,” it means a favorable judgment.
Example: You deserved that compliment.
Spelled with an “e,” it means a nice correlation, supplement, or match.
Example: That scarf complements your outfit nicely.
10. Everyday vs. every day
“Everyday” is an adjective describing something that commonly occurs. There is no space between the words when you’re using it as a description.
Example: This is my everyday routine.
“Every day” references days of the week.
Example: Do you do that every day?
Our general reliance on auto-correct has prompted even the most educated among us to make some of these mistakes. May this list be helpful.
Wishing everyone a happy Grammar Day, though really, every day is Grammar Day, at least around here. (There’s always more to learn!)
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